Broadband is extremely important for speedy and consistent internet. The demand for this has increased all the more with the majority of people now working from home.
Although you might think your broadband provider should be responsible for picking up the speed when your internet begins to slow down, you can actually make some quick improvements from the comfort of your own home.
The important part to remember is that we’re talking specifically about the speed of your broadband, not the speed of your Wi-Fi network. In other words, it's the connection from your provider to your home, not the connection between your router and your phone. If you’re looking to fix the latter, here's how to speed up Wi-Fi, which includes tips such as moving your router to the best position and using powerline adapters instead of Wi-Fi.
Before we get to the tips, note that the speed of ADSL broadband, the type which most people have in the UK, is largely dependent on how far you live from the local exchange. The further you are, the slower it goes. The distance is measured by the length of the cables that carry the data along and these cabled generally follow the layout of roads, so sadly it won’t be the direct distance ‘as the crow flies’.
You should also note that with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and more and more people working from home, home-schooling or unable to do either of these things and therefore binge-watching movies, streaming music and playing online games, there is about to be a huge demand placed on the infrastructure. It may be that you find your internet is slower simply because so many people are using it at once.
If something is wrong with your broadband and is making it run slowly, it won't matter if you have super-fast Wi-Fi: performance will be limited by the incoming broadband speed.
Before you try anything, it's worth running a speed test to see what you're working with. We recommend speedtest.net.
If you find none of the tips below work, you might want to think about switching to a faster broadband provider. Here's our round-up of the best broadband deals, updated monthly.
How to improve the speed of your broadband
1. Check another device
If you notice your internet connection is running slow, the first thing to check is whether it's actually a problem with the laptop, phone or tablet you're using. Try loading the same web page on more than one device and see if both are slow or only one. If it's just one, then you've ruled out an issue with your broadband as a whole.
2. Restart your router
If both devices are slow, try turning off your router and leaving it off for a few moments. If there's no on-off switch you can do this by carefully pulling the power cable out of the back of the unit, and then plugging it back in after a minute. As with most computers, sometimes the best solution is simply to turn it off and on. You will have to wait a few minutes for it to fully reboot, but this often gives the router the chance to sort itself out.
3. Check your broadband provider’s service status
The next step is to find out if there are any broadband issues in your area which are affecting not just you, but lots of people. (We'll get to a problem on your line only shortly.)
If you’ve just activated your broadband for the first time it will take a little while to come up (make sure you check your activation date). Up to 10 days after your activation date your connection will be unstable as your provider runs tests. If your connection isn't as reliable as you'd hoped initially, it's worth knowing that things should improve over time.
Problems can exist just on your line, due to a fault at the exchange or perhaps damage to the cable from the exchange to your home. Phone your internet service provider (ISP) and ask if the line can be checked for problems.
Tip: Don't forget that your broadband connection may well be shared with your neighbours even though you pay for the service individually. Try running a speed test at different times of day as speed could well be affected by how many people are using their connection at the same time.
4. Diagnose and upgrade your router
If there's no problem with your ISP or line, the issue could well be your router. Many have some self-diagnostic software located in its options that you can try running to see if that throws up any issues. It can also be worth updating the router’s firmware (software).
You will be able to find guides on your router manufacturer’s website on how to do both of these things.
If all else fails, then you may want to try another router. If you’re using a router that is supplied by your ISP then you can contact support and ask for a replacement/upgrade. If you’re going to need to buy one yourself have a look at our roundup of the best routers you can buy.